Monday, October 24, 2011

US Presidents and SWAT Teams at the SiWC

I’ve been away from this blog for a long time, for a number of good reasons. But I’m back and planning on doing more regular posts from now on, because I’ve got lots to say.

Sheesh! I don’t know where to start.


This past weekend I volunteered at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in Surrey, B.C. The weekend began with pre-conference workshops on Thursday, and the day was spiced with a bit of unexpected excitement.

That day we were sharing the Sheraton Hotel with a local municipal economic summit that featured guest appearances by presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.

Protesters picketed outside, calling for the immediate arrest of George Bush for the crime of “torture.” It was all very legal. Someone had filed a suit in a local Surrey court, laying criminal charges, and the protesters expected the RCMP to bring the culprit to jail, where justice would finally be served.

Presumably, the ex-president of the United States was to be tried in a Surrey courthouse and convicted. He would then languish in a Canadian prison, paying for his crime but never, of course, having to suffer the intolerable experience of waterboarding.

But the RCMP were busy with other preoccupations, the biggest of which was their assignment to protect the presidents while they were in town.

I arrived at the hotel at 6:45, early for my duties because there would be security checks. I only had to go through a couple on my way to the underground parking lot. The final one was a polite RCMP officer who asked for my picture ID (they had a list of conference volunteers, who had probably been looked up on Facebook by the secret service beforehand ;-), and then asked me a question I couldn’t answer:

“What is the theme of the conference this weekend?” Shucks, I didn’t know. So she prompted me: “It starts with an 'F'."

When it became obvious that I was having a hard time selecting the right "f-word" from my quite extensive writer's vocabulary, she gave me another hint: "It’s “Fantasy.” I must not have looked like much of a security threat because she let me in.

We never saw the famous duo, and their handlers politely refused my request that they give each of the presidents a copy of my newly released novel, which I was sure they would enjoy reading on their flight back to the US of A. My husband pointed out that the books might have been laced with anthrax, an idea that had never crossed my innocent mind. But the whole day was a “novel” experience, all the same.

Hotel personnel said we were being watched through the curtains, in the inner conference room where our registration was temporarily set up, by surveillance technology that could pick out the moles on our faces. Images were being sent to a satellite and bounced back to a room somewhere deep in the bowels of the hotel where everyone’s movements could be monitored. SWAT teams surrounded the hotel, and there was a lock-down during the few hours the presidents were in the building.

The SiWC planners, who were swamped with extra work informing everyone and working around the unusual situation, were not amused, but the rest of us rather enjoyed ourselves. With our important looking conference badges, we traipsed downstairs and sailed around the lobby area, looking as official as possible, weaving in and out amongst the hired hands in suits with wires in their ears and probably some who didn’t look like they were on duty as well.

But, in the end, when the presidents arrived (at an undisclosed time), they were sneaked in and out of the room they’d be speaking in through the kitchen, and we never caught a glimpse. The next time I saw president Bush was on TV at the world series game last night. He looked a bit stressed, but I assume he was only worried about how the game would go. I can’t imagine he was still thinking about how close he came to spending the rest of his life in a Canadian jail.

It would have been a very civilized jail. Maybe that’s why he wasn’t too worried. Everyone knows Canada’s reputation as a peaceful, and peace-loving country.

Unless their hockey team loses, in which case they riot and break things.


Yes, in case you didn’t notice, my book is now published. I’m waiting for my web designer, the amazing Kramer, to get the website ready for the public eye before I officially announce the release of the book. Then you’ll be hearing more about that.

You’ll also hear more about what I learned at the conference while I was busy monitoring workshops, sitting at the Book Fair waiting for people to buy my book, and checking name tags at the banquet room door.

Expect some exciting news about the current publishing industry buzz—a very loud and frantic buzz specifically around the topics of self-publishing and e-book publication.

The natives are restless, and the establishment is nervous.

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